Guatemala: Protests for Assassinated Lawyer Streamed Live from Laptops in the Streets

Protests are taking place today in Guatemala City to demand justice for an attorney who was assassinated on Sunday, and who claimed in a posthumously released YouTube video taped before his death that if he were to die, it would be at the orders of Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom.

Quick background: The slain attorney, Rodrigo Rosenberg, represented a man who refused to take an assigment by Guatemala's president to serve on the board of a bank widely known as a money laundering hub and a shelter for narcotrafficking spoils. This whistleblower client of Rosenberg, Khalil Musa, was assassinated in March. On Sunday, after reportedly refusing to participate in the corruption and the coverup, Rosenberg himself was assassinated.

Protesters are at the presidential palace today. Libertópolis is streaming the action on, as I type, though the stream is going on and off as armed military police swarm in.

Twitter users are marking conversations about today's protests, and about the case in general, with the hashtag #escandalogt. To take this sort of public action in Guatemala is not something one does lightly, and the young people at the center of these protests are placing their lives at risk.

I'm seeing some Guatemalan Twitterers spreading word that "chicken bus" drivers will gather tomorrow in the capital for another round of protests. Why? These same transportistas have long been the target of ever-escalating assasinations and extortion from narco gangs. The same corruption Rosenberg and Musa attempted to expose fuels this cycle of violence.

I don't have factual confirmation, but Guatemalan BB readers and Twitterers are saying that coverage of this story on the Guatemalan television networks is actively censored by the state (and that the recently declared "swine flu emergency" in a country with only 3 confirmed H1N1 cases was little more than a thinly disguised attempt by the state to exert more control). Claims of censorship there have historic precedent, and it makes the existence of these online "citizen TV" transmissions all the more significant. (via deztyped and many others)

Previously: Guatemala - In YouTube Video Shot Before His Death, Attorney Blames President for His Assasination

Update, 3pm PT, May 12: CNN now has an item on the story.

Update, 330pm PT, May 12: Photos from the protest are here. And here is audio from the protest. And here is a website demanding the president be impeached and brought to trial.


  1. The president had better be worried (and if the assassination story is true, that’s a good thing.)

    I lived in Guatemala for a while. Once when they raised the bus fair the equivalent of about .10 US dollars the people freaked out (understandably, a lot of people there just barely get by) Buses were turned over and burnt in the streets. Guatemalans know how to protest.

  2. Also, most of the people outside of the capital’s richer areas don’t have internet access. So I’m not sure how important these internet broadcasts actually are. I’m sure that many, many people have heard by word of mouth by now though.

    It’s been about five years since I lived there though so things may have changed.

    1. @anonymous, the existence of these web video broadcasts is very significant outside of Guatemala, and while you’re right that internet penetration tapers way, way off outside the capital, you’d be surprised how much has changed in the past 5 years, even in rural areas.

  3. @ Xeni Yeah, and after I sat down and figured it out it’s actually been almost nine years. Now I’m feeling old.

  4. @Xeni my mom went there today, she’s a journalist so she had a critical eye of the protests. People protesting against president Colom were never violent towards police or other protesters (that Colom himself hired to manifest support towards the president)

    Media coverage of this event has been technically nonexistent or inaccurate. I was listening to Sonora Radio on my way to school and they were mentioning that protesters were insolent and violent, which was untrue according to what I heard via my mom’s phone reports and other testimonies of people who attended the protest.

    Here is Audio live from the Protest that explains what is happenning:

  5. Hello, I am Guatemalan, and things are ugly right now.
    A follow up to Miss Jardin: violence in the streets has been incrementing for the past two years, since this president took office(although organized crime has been on the rise for the last 13 years, when the war ended and retired military and guerrillas alike turned to drug trafficking, kidnapping and contraband), mostly claiming the lives of people on the periphery of the city and bus drivers for not paying a “tax” to the street gangs, or narc related killings in the country.

    It’s breathtaking, 18 murders a day in Guatemala City alone, because the government has neglected the need for an increase in police force and investigative power, the courts are peopled by corrupt judges (2 in 100 cases turns into a conviction), also and because of that, the people are afraid to press charges fearing retaliation. Instead, the government spends millions of dollars on “social solidarity” programs that are plain propaganda for a continuity of governance, and good ole fashioned stealing.
    Now, these murders with a political footprint are another thing entirely, bringing back memories of the 36 year war waged between the state and the guerrillas, and the military juntas and coup de etat that were the norm in the seventies and early eighties.
    One thing to know about the video the lawyer made is that not only did he accuse the president and high level officials of his impending murder, he also called for all Guatemalans to unite and make a front against the impunity and corruption of the current government(the executive, congress and courts alike). Because print media are very slow to react, and the TV stations are in the service of the government, people here have had to rely on word of mouth to inform themselves of things going on around them, but now with facebook, blogging and all the other tools at hand, building that front is not taking much effort but giving voice to what everyone here knows but does not speak.

    I wasn’t in the protest this afternoon, because I’m working in Antigua Guatemala, but my brother was. All my friends from high school and college were. They got together on a facebook group.


  6. My wife and I backpacked around Guatemala last year, I’d had no idea that the “chicken bus” drivers faced such danger from narcotics gangs. I was worried enough about the giant scorpion that I found on my backpack after it spent some time in the back of the bus with a few crates of bananas.

    I was struck by how casual the bribery to cross the border was, though. It’s so systematic and routine that you wouldn’t even know that it wasn’t a legitimate processing fee if you went there without a guidebook. But for the equivalent of $5 U.S. I wasn’t about to risk a Guatemalan detention cell by raising a fuss about it.

  7. I live in Guatemala now. This is mind-blasting – until yesterday I thought that the president is just an idiot. Today I know that he is an assassin. The international community needs to support here. It’s not possible to let this pass by without any major action. People are afraid to protest, so this little uproar today was already something big. I can only ask all Guatemalans and everybody who like Guatemala in anyway to protest, to move, to insist, to communicate and not stop doing so until we can start living in Guatemala again – without a murderer as a president!

  8. Im Guatemalan and i was present at the protest. The stories about us being violent are not true, we even sat down as a sign of peace when the other protesters paid by the president showed up. Im glad to see the international community is paying some attetion to us, we need your support.

  9. a very limited coverage appeared tonight on TV news, they briefly mentioned the subject and didn’t mention any names of the accused on the video, but later they did mention it was against the president. What worries me is that he’s still saying that this is a plot against him, same thing he’s been saying for two years now, also he mentioned in an interview that “these people have more martyrs ready, he won’t be the last, more is to come, it’s all a plot against this government” I’m scared to think this is a veiled threat from the president himself…

    also, no coverage about the protest, only mentions of the “support” protest

  10. @ #9 Anonymous:

    How, exactly, can the international community support you? Just being “aware” of this does nothing to actually help you.

    1. Just being “aware” of this does nothing to actually help you.

      There are many cases around the world where international publicity have affected government action. Murder cases get re-opened. 13 year-olds get their marriages annulled. The attention of the world can be quite uncomfortable.

  11. @ #12 Antinous:

    I truly hope that is the case in this situation as well. I am now aware: Presto, chango?

  12. Is there any significance to the “bird” hand gesture being displayed in the photo on the banner in the last photo?

    1. I believe it’s a sign for Colom’s political party. The implication is also, a bird of peace, new beginning for postwar Guatemala still reeling in violence.

  13. This is outrageous the whole regime should fall because of this, people like Khalil Musa and his daughter are dead just because he is against any sort of corruption, Mr. Musa’s lawyer was killed just because he knew who killed Musa and why. Such people should be put on trial in front of the world court and the president should be put behind bars along with his evil associates and his wife.

  14. Now there are two guatemalans arrested over different “crimes”, besides the twitter charged with “financial panic”, there was this young guy that was arrested because he was distributing CDs containing Rodrigo Rosenberg’s video.

    He was charged with “conspiracy against government”. And he is being held prisoner at a local Police Station.

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